Graduate Handbook & FAQs

The Animal Sciences Program's Graduate Handbook covers all of the information students need to know regarding our policies, regulations, and program requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the difference between units and credits?

There is a distinction between a course's credit hour value and its unit value. Graduate students holding regular (20 hour per week) assistantships need to be registered for 24 graduate units of coursework each Fall & Spring semester to maintain their full-time status. Graduate students not on an assistantship need to be registered for 48 graduate units per semester to maintain full-time status. Registration during Winter or Summer terms is not required; however, graduate students must be registered for a minimum of one credit hour during the term in which they graduate (Fall, Spring or Summer). For complete details about credits vs. units and other registration policies, please visit the Graduate School's Registration Policies.

Why should I drop/add a course through the ANSC Graduate Office once the semester has started?

Dropping and adding courses after the semester has started can result in charges to the student’s account and loss of full-time status if the student isn’t careful. Loss of full-time status can have serious consequences in regards to student stipend, tuition remission, health insurance, and visa status, if applicable. Please read the following information:

1. During the schedule change (drop/add) period students will be charged 20% of the tuition for a dropped course, if they don’t seek the help of the graduate program coordinator. The graduate program coordinator can use an electronic stamp to backdate the drop/add to the day before classes started. If a student drops the course later (after attending classes), the student may need to petition to retroactively drop the course. Check first with the graduate coordinator to determine if drop/add is still possible without a petition.

Be sure to register for a combination of courses that are equivalent to at least 24 graduate units every Fall and Spring semester to keep your full-time status as a graduate assistant! If you think you may drop a course later in the semester, be sure to sign up for sufficient graduate units so that you can maintain full-time status even without that course. See Graduate School Registration Policies.

Sign up for classes before the start of the semester! Always drop/add through the ANSC Graduate Program Office once classes have started, not through the registration website, that way the graduate program coordinator can ensure that you maintain full-time status and do not get charged for changes.

Signing up for 1 or 2 hrs of Research (ANSC799:12 units per hr and ANSC898: 18 units per hr) can boost the total number of graduate units to ensure that you meet the full-time status requirement, plus it gives you credit for your research and adds to your mentor’s FTE.

2. If you fail to complete your contract (i.e., leave before the end of the semester), then you will be charged that semester’s tuition remission. Please have a discussion with the business manager, Sandra Nola, if you have any questions about finishing and leaving before the end of the semester.

Why do I need to be covered by health insurance?

As of Fall 2020, all students enrolled full-time in a master’s or doctoral program at the University of Maryland, College Park campus must have health insurance coverage.

  1. All graduate students must demonstrate that they have health insurance, either through a university or personal external plan. Health Insurance for Graduate Students

  2. Students holding a graduate assistantship can choose to 1) enroll in a Maryland State Employee Health Insurance Plan, included in the benefits for the assistantship, 2) enroll in the University’s Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), or 3) enroll in an external plan. 

  3. When your assistantship ends your State Employee Health Insurance coverage will end (you must be on a full-time assistantship to qualify). If you plan on graduating in the summer, please note that your assistantship ends in June. To remain covered by health insurance you will need to purchase a SHIP or an external plan at that time. If you are already enrolled in SHIP, your SHIP coverage will continue through the end of the plan period (even if you graduate). You will need to be registered to purchase SHIP, but then you would also need to be registered anyway if you are defending and/or uploading your thesis/dissertation during summer.

Comparison of plans: UMD Graduate School Insurance Comparison Sheet

How are students evaluated?

Each year the Graduate Education Committee (GEC) conducts the Graduate Student Annual Review. This takes place on the Reading Day before finals begins each spring semester.  Students are required to submit their CV’s, progress reports, and an advisor evaluation to be reviewed by the GEC. On Reading Day students will meet with the GEC for an in-person interview. The purpose of the review is to determine if the student is making satisfactory progress toward the desired degree, if a change in graduate student status is warranted, and if requirements as presented to the student in the Handbook are being met (participation in seminars, filing of a Plan of Study and Research Proposal, etc.). Information gathered at this review is used in determining if each student should be reappointed to an assistantship, and also for selection of the Outstanding MS and PhD Students of the Year. 

Where can I find required forms for graduate students?

Students and graduate faculty can find all the graduate student department forms on the Current Student webpage under the Forms for Graduate Students section.

What are the guidelines for writing my research proposal?

All ANSC graduate students must present to their advisory committees a thesis (M.S.) or dissertation (Ph.D.) research proposal for approval during the initial stages of their graduate studies. Learn all the expectations on the Research Proposal Guidelines page.

What can students take to satisfy the Research Ethics requirement?

Students are required to complete a Research Ethics course during their program. The University offers several courses which satisfy this requirement (for example, BIOL600 and BISI688B) or students can complete the online course through

Are students required to present their research?

Each year around the end of May or beginning of June, the department holds our Annual Symposium (also known as The One-Day Wonder) where graduate students in the department show off their research findings to the faculty, campus, and local research institutions. All graduate students are required to give an oral presentation or a poster of their research. This event gives students the opportunity to practice their presentation skills in front of a knowledgeable audience. Additionally, all students are encouraged to present their research at outside events such as conferences or symposiums. To this end, monetary prizes are awarded to the top presentations at the Symposium for travel purposes.

Are students required to participate in the ANSC department seminars?

Yes, students are expected to attend the weekly seminar in ANSC or another related graduate program during the academic year, regardless of whether they are signed up for credit. MS students are required to take either ANSC625, formerly ANSC698D, Developing Presentation Skills (one credit) early in their studies or one credit of ANSC624, formerly ANSC698C, Recent Advances in Animal and Avian Sciences at some point after the first year of study and PhD students are required to take a total of two credits of seminar, one of which must be ANSC624.

What responsibilities does my assistantship cover?

Student responsibilities will require an average weekly time commitment of 20 hours a week, for full time students, working for the department by teaching and/or working for their advisor. This is in addition to their course work and their own research project. Students will be required to report during the entire period of their appointment, and work according to the University Holiday Schedule, not the academic calendar.

What is tuition remission and what happens if my assistantship ends?

Tuition remission is a program that provides employees with an opportunity to take classes at a University System of Maryland institution with waived tuition. A graduate student on a full-time assistantship in ANSC receives up to ten credits of tuition remission per academic semester (Fall/Spring) and four credits over the winter term. There is no tuition remission for summer sessions. Related information below:

  • Your stipend, tuition remission benefit, and other fellowships or grants may affect your eligibility for federal loans. Please consult the Office of Student Financial Aid if you have any questions.

  • Tuition remission awarded as part of the assistantship is paid at the established standard tuition rate; any tuition differential is paid by the student. Tuition remission can be used for courses in the DC Consortium. Tuition in excess of the remission provided will be billed and paid by the student at the in-state resident rate.

  • When you were admitted to the university, your residency classification for tuition purposes was established and indicated on your acceptance letter. If your assistantship ends, the tuition remission benefit would be terminated and you would be charged the tuition rate based on your original residency reclassification for the current and future semesters.

  • If you were classified with an out-of-state designation and believe you have met all the criteria for establishing in-state residency as defined in the Board of Regents policy, we invite you to file a petition for reclassification. The deadline for filing a complete petition is the first day of classes for the term in which you are seeking in-state status. For more information, refer to the Office of the Registrar Residency Reclassification page or email

  • All mandatory and other fees are paid by the student.

  • Students receiving a prestigious external scholarship or fellowship should read the Graduate School webpage section on requesting tuition remission.

  • Please also read the FAQ on drop/add as dropping a course once the semester has started will result in your being charged for a portion of the tuition costs.

What role does my advisor play in my graduate program?

At the time of admission, students are matched with a faculty member who is best suited to the background and research goals of the selected applicants. Together the student and advisor assemble a Graduate Advisory Committee and develop a Research Proposal and Plan of Study. The student and the advisor along with the Graduate Advisory Committee should continually monitor the progress and work diligently to achieve the goal side by side with fulfillment of all other requirements for completion of the degree.  It is at this point that the advisor assumes the responsibility of a mentor. 

The mentor supports, enables, and facilitates the professional advancement of the student and acts as a role model by setting high professional standards and ethics. The two act together with other professionals who contribute to the fulfillment of the goals of the student. Indeed, a graduate student may have more than one mentor, e.g., members of their Graduate Advisory Committee or even other professors and scientists, both in and outside of the ANSC Graduate Program.

Mentor Responsibilities: Clear communication is essential for successful mentoring. This can be achieved in a number of ways:

  • Be responsive. Establish expectations for response times for communication and feedback and document this in the SME (e.g., response time for emails would be shorter (24 to 48 hours during the work week) than feedback on proposal or manuscript drafts (five to ten days)).
  • Communicate with students about goals and expectations. Clearly describe your expectations in the SME, but also learn about the student’s goals and expectations.  Their future career goals may impact how you need to mentor them. Talk about different career paths and the expectations and duties involved in those paths.
  • Document meetings and student progress. Keep a record of set goals and accomplishments so that you can recognize failure to progress early in the student’s program and take action to identify and remedy any problems quickly.
    • It is suggested that after individual meetings between the mentor and mentee that the student provide the advisor a list of the actions and expectations that had been agreed upon during the meeting. This summary list could be provided in an email, Google doc, or other form as agreed upon by the student and advisor. In this manner, the mentor and mentee can verify that they both interpreted the discussions in the same way and have documented their discussion.
    • Be cognizant of the student’s other responsibilities (e.g., TA duties) and factor those commitments into your expectations.
  • Treat your students with respect. Graduate students should be treated as peers in the profession. Faculty should not ask students to do work outside of the profession for them. Keep in mind that faculty are in a relative position of power over graduate students, and thus they should maintain professional boundaries accordingly.
  • Provide constructive criticism in all aspects of a student’s graduate training.  
  • Work with students to enhance their technical skills and oral and written scientific communication skills. 
  • Know program and university policies and resources.
  • Understand challenges that students may be encountering. Students from underrepresented groups face additional challenges in graduate school. Faculty should actively seek to understand these experiences.
  • Faculty should avoid giving unsolicited advice on topics such as reproduction and family formation (e.g., when to have children), marriage and domestic relationships, physical appearance, and issues related to sexual orientation. Mentors may share their own experiences in this area if asked directly by a student.
  • Address any issues that arise with respect to the mentoring relationship as soon as possible with your mentee, the Director of Graduate Studies, and/or the Director of Administrative Services in the department.  The mentor should have a log of meetings that includes a brief list of general topics.

Student Responsibilities:  Do your part to facilitate a productive mentor-mentee relationship. Students should approach the mentoring relationship as a professional:

  • Respect your mentor’s time.
  • Be responsive. Establish expectations for response times for communication and feedback and document this in the SME (e.g., response times for emails would be shorter (24 to 48 hours during the work week) than corrections/feedback on proposals or manuscript drafts (five to ten days)).
  • Recognize and understand that graduate school is a training experience, not a job. Hours and responsibilities will therefore differ than employment in other fields, or even in other graduate programs on and off campus. While an average weekly time commitment of 20 hours per week working for the department by teaching and/or working for your advisor is expected of a full-time graduate assistant, this is in addition to coursework and your own research project. In order to progress and meet degree benchmarks, you will need to commit additional time towards completing your own research which may include evenings and weekends, as necessitated by the experimental design and protocols. Learn to schedule your time and set expectations effectively to avoid burn-out.  Discuss your time commitments with your advisor so that conflicts in research expectations and other responsibilities (coursework/teaching responsibilities) can be avoided.
  • Understand that your enrollment in the graduate program and completion of course work does not equate with the granting of a degree ( In other words, do not assume that your acceptance in the program guarantees you a degree. Hard work is required to meet this goal.
  • Be respectful. Just as mentors have a responsibility to treat their mentees with respect, students must also interact with faculty in a respectful and professional manner.
  • Be proactive and take the initiative to meet your goals and fulfill program requirements.
  • Be informed. Know the program and university policies.  
  • Read voraciously. Ask for reading recommendations, use PubMed and literature alerts to be aware of progress in your field.  Don’t forget to investigate the history of your field. Read your mentor’s papers, even those that don’t directly relate to your project! There is no minimum amount of time that a student should spend reading, as this depends on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, how quickly one reads, the length and nature of the article, etc. Learn how to quickly scan articles to determine whether or not you need to read them more carefully or if you can move on. Typically, the research proposal cites 50 to 100 articles, and the thesis/ dissertation will cite even more. More are read than cited.
  • Ask for, and respond to, constructive criticism to improve your work.
  • Interact with your fellow graduate students.  They may help you resolve a problem by suggesting other approaches or provide a break to just relax and talk.
  • Address any issues that arise with respect to the mentoring relationship as soon as possible with the primary mentor, the Director of Graduate Studies, and/or the Director of Administrative Services in the department.  Note that failure to progress in your program may result in dismissal.

Please see the more detailed ANSC Graduate Student Mentoring Statement and the ANSC Graduate Handbook for information on graduate student - mentor responsibilities and the ANSC Graduate Program.